The Swedish family owns stakes in some of Europe's largest businesses, such as Ericsson and Electrolux, but it does so through non-profit foundations, rather than by direct ownership. This structure has helped the family business survive
Filmed by Kristoffer Hamilton. Edited by Oliver McGuirk. Produced by Seb Morton-Clark.
They're one of the most powerful business families in Europe, but they own nothing themselves. The Wallenberg family, through their foundations, own controlling stakes in some of Europe's biggest companies, from Ericsson and ABB to AstraZeneca and Electrolux.
Here in Stockholm, where they've been active for more than 160 years, they own the city's preeminent Grand Hotel, as well as stakes in airline SAS, and one of Sweden's biggest and oldest banks, SEB. But whereas other business families have struggled and even fallen apart, the Wallenbergs are as important as ever. So what accounts for their longevity?
We are the fifth generation. We're talking about the sixth generation. That is highly unusual. Most people think that we own the assets that we manage.
They're owned by a nonprofit foundation, or rather, a bunch of them, but three significant ones. That means that we cannot spend our time fighting about the capital. We can only talk about how to develop the capital.
The personal wealth part is not the main topic. It's about creating value long-term-- has focused our generations, to generations of the family, very much on the business itself.
But it boils down to values.
We have to, like everyone else, have a job. And every morning, you go to your job, you engage, and you earn a living.
So the legacy and the possibility to influence the legacy for the future, that is one of these key aspects of what makes this exciting. And we hope that our next generation will find it the same way, at least a few of them. You know, seeing is believing. So for them, it's a matter of trying to make it kind of-- to show what could it be like.
So you take them in when you're dressing down the chief executive?
Or maybe not, but--
Well, sometimes you say that kids, they don't do what you tell them to do. But they, rather, observe what you're doing yourself. To a certain extent, I think that is part of the situation. But we're also trying to be more structured around this question. We're spending quite a bit of time to see how can we be helpful for the next generation.
You know, when we grew up, we were not that many in our generation. But the next generation is around 30 individuals. And so for us, it's really a matter of trying to create a foundation, something to grow from and be helpful, as Marcus says-- could have called it mentorship or whatnot, but to have more of a structured approach than what we had, historically.
We focus very much on the people that we work with. It's a very important thing.
Maybe people is the single most important ingredient in what we're working with. We can't do everything ourselves. We're dependent on a great group of people that we work very closely with.
This innovation and moving into what is about to come, is very important to us.
But at the end of the day, maybe you could say it's pride. It's that you stand up for continuity of the family, the legacy, but also, that you help in promoting society, developing society, which really comes to the benefit of a large group of people, including the companies that we work with over time.